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As a species, we are storytellers. To varying degrees we relate to each other, to history and to the rest of our universe through stories. The imagination of a child is sparked to converse in fantabulous make-believe. We read stories to our kids to help them make sense of life. Movies tell us stories of things we can not personally witness. When we meet someone new the conversation is stories of who you are, who you know in common, where you came from – all stories shared to create bridges of connections.

Dinner at the farmhouse the other night was a casual Chicken Pad Thai and salad with a guest. Margo has known Elise since she first moved to the area and hence had known Gunther and the farm intimately for many eons. We sat on the porch, surrounded by Elise’s gardens and the green fields dotted with cows. I listened to Elise and Margo tell stories. The main course brought questions about my life in Asia. I told stories.

Later I was thinking of my Father when he was as close to death as Gunther is now. Always one to lead a lively repartee, my dad was a master storyteller. Yet when he reached this point, the stories stopped. He might ask a question to get the stories started, but he stopped telling his. Gunther sat quietly listening to tales he starred in,  and stories he had never heard from me. Unlike most, he never smiled and interjected, “Oh that reminds me…” or “Do you remember…?”

In the first year I took care of him, Gunther would sometimes sing me a German opera about a girl named Martha though he said Marta was the correct pronunciation. In the early days, our longest conversations were just before his nap as he reclined in his favorite chair and explained the artwork in his bedroom. The chair holds a laundry basket these now and our conversations are mostly one-sided.

I don’t feel he isn’t there; it is more that he is closing in to the quiet world of listening. More often than not, when he does initiate a conversation, it is in his native language – one I have little understanding of, as if his mind is working from the very core of who he is. I know he is hearing all that is being said because occasionally he catches my eye and furrows his brow in a comical look of mock irritation. There are volumes spoken in those eyes and brows.

Perhaps when the stories end, it is not because we no longer want to share of ourselves but rather we giving the ultimate gift, of listening.

Fountain in the garden

11 comments on “When the stories end…

  1. This is lovely. The gift of listening is precious, as is the sharing of stories.

    1. Thank you Kimberly. Listening is an art and storytellers are my favorite folks!

  2. I love to hear stories from my grandmother, the way she talks about life is so mesmerizing. I just wish that I can tell the way she tells it when I come to her age. 🙂

    1. That’s the funny thing about life, shopcrazzyblog. We all grow old and have wonderful stories to tell! Thanks for dropping by.

      1. Always a pleasure 🙂 please keep posting such great posts.

  3. Touring NH says:

    I’m sure Gunther told some amazing and terrifying tales. He has seen so much during his lifetime. People should take more time to listen to the older generations. It seems those stories are being replaced by snippets of “chat” and an overload of cell phone pictures.

    1. Agreed, Laura. There is a huge difference between storytelling and “chatting” Thank you!

  4. cheryl622014 says:

    The quiet removing on. Lovely in peacefulness and a gentle preparation for those who will remain.

    1. Thank you Cheryl. Kindly and wisely stated.

  5. Marie Keates says:

    The thing I miss most about my father in law, Albert, is his stories. Listening is an important skill to learn.

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